• Here’s an interesting stat to start us off.
9 of 11 starters.
That’s right…depending on what your starting line-up is for the USMNT in 2010, it’s possible that the squad that strides out with kids in hand on June 12 will feature nine players (Howard, Spector, Gooch, Stu, Rico, Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, Altidore) that played in one of the top 4 leagues in Europe in 2010.
The stragglers? Jay DeMerit who plays for Watford (once a Premiership team and DeMerit is arguably still a Premiership player) and…wait for it….Carlos Bocanegra (the column is coming folks). I’m counting the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and the EPL ahead of Ligue One.
Compare that to 2006 –using the Italy game as the marker– and you’ve got how many? Six. (Keller, Cherundolo, Bocanegra, Reyna, Convey, McBride)…add DaMarcus and Eddie Lewis and you can make it seven if you want as both started at least a game.
So when I hear questions of “depth” around the USMNT especially coming out of this week’s USA friendly, I kind of scoff at them given that depth is a progression for the USMNT, not an absolute. Sure the USMNT needs more depth, but you need to compare that to years past when making the statement. And let’s not forget the injury toll on the depth, and let’s not forget that the MLS is a arguably better league than it was before, and let’s not forget that the Honduras team–true missing most starters–had some major talent and is World Cup bound.
It’s a positive trend for the States…still not where it needs to be, but positive.
• Had this question from George in Tuesday’s comment section:
“Matthew, how do you honestly rate the US’s chances in the World Cup?
And are you happy that the US plays England first?”
Great questions George and tough ones to answer now or even when the roster is selected in May.
First, let me caveat my answer by saying–to date–I have only witnessed Slovenia in highlights and never a full game. I’ve reviewed Slovenian players and data, but not how they play. That said…
You have to like the USMNT’s chances more than you did in 2006 from a group perspective as well as team perspective. Just about everything is different from the 2006 prep where Bruce Arena, in a strategy that can be questioned, relied on out-of-shape veterans and a series of extremely friendly Friendlies as preparation for Italy’s Iron Curtain and Czech’s inside-outside game of Koller and Rosicky.
First, I’ll take your last question. Getting England first instead of later is a positive. Expectations will not be sky high, pressure to win with two games ahead will not be as high and a loss to a first-rate England squad will not be looked at as the end of the Cup run for the States.
If England throws a rookie Cup keeper out there, all the better.
On your first question:
Right now, January 2010, if you had to press me into odds and outcomes on the games they’d look as follows:
England (-.5) v. United States: I can see this game going any which way, but if Wayne Rooney continues on his 2010 rampage, lock up your children. Could be anything here as I think Capello’s work is covering up some major weaknesses especially in the defensive third for England. So I could see a States loss 3-1, a draw (1-1) or a Yanks win (don’t know the score).
Slovenia (even) v. United States: Slovenia is a team that shut-out Russia in the game to go this year and was the only team to topple Italy in 2006. A tricky game here for the USMNT if Slovenia gets up early. I’m looking at a draw here, but it would not surprise me if Slovenia clipped the US 1-0.
Algeria (+1.5) v. United States: Algeria is vulnerable and this is a game the States should win. I’ve watched Algeria a few times and if the US can press them in their defensive third, they’ll knock in at least one through the air. This is a Jozy Altidore game, if the youngster can bring it. US 1-0.
(Note, I’m not a gambler…never gambled on a game in my sports life, unless I was playing in it.)
By the way, I’m going to completely revise this after I watch the Netherlands Friendly in March. That will be the States first true measuring stick the Azteca on August 12th and the Confederation Cup.
Beyond the Group Stage, I’ve got a tough time visualizing Coach Bradley’s troops progressing, but it will all depend upon the form of the opponent. One team that, if hitting on all cylinders, will be an immense challenge is Serbia.
• Here’s your link to the video from yesterday on Lanverton. (I was commenting to Miss Shin Guardian yesterday on how US Weekly needs to come up with names like TomCat and Brangelina….well let’s give it a try over here.)
Landon Donovan’s goal to this Everton fan proved one thing yesterday. If Tim Cahill has actually sprinkled a little fountain of youth on himself and Fellaini has gone Tom Hank’s Big….well Everton are going to be a force through the end of the campaign. In the beginning of the year you had the stick-like Fellaini battling back from a nasty virus that saw him down some 20-odd pounds and you had Cahill playing like he was thinking about sunsetting his career at Perth Glory or something.
While Donovan has been a force, he’s been complementary to the assured midfield play of these two and should be sending them some Isotoners Dan Marino-style or something.
• Arsenal wunderkid Jack Wilshere is still rumored headed to Bolton. Next up on Spike: Ultimate Fighter, Horwich. Lee, perhaps Wilshere, Weiss and Holden. Keep your head down Stu. (Oh and Bolton, time to get a new logo…going to be tough for Holden fans to switch from the dazzling Dynamo jerseys to Bolton ones.)
• The TSG Information Matrix (TM) goes far and wide. How far you ask? Is the USMNT thinking of bringing over the Turks and Czechs to the United States for a little tourney before the World Cup? This rumor–and just a rumor–abounds–pending our translation–from a Czech magazine. TSG Information Matrix…we might have to make that a subscription-based product. Wink.
• Another good questions from TSG commentor George….What about Owen Hargreaves?
(Note to Man U fans…no mention here of return for Hargreaves…not sure where that came from. We are predominantly a States’ based commentary site.)
First of all, he’s Canadian..ha. All joking aside, Hargreaves in the England side would be absolutely ginormous. Its no question that beyond maybe Aaron Lennon, Hargreaves ability to jackrabbit all over the pitch in 2006 was the reason that England despite an offense that was offensive remained competitive.
That being said, you’re talking about what…a 2-year-layoff for Hargreaves. That’s really tough to come back from in terms of timing.
US fans know all about this situation unfortunately. There was a guy by the name of John O’Brien who dazzled in 2002 only to succumb to the medic table in 2006….in pops Pablo Mastroeni (not a slouch mind you), but a limited player with a penchant for fouling…out he goes in the Italy game and so-on and so-on and so-on….
• And a closing note to ponder on last Saturday’s game. For all those slinging muck at Sacha Kljestan and even TSG boy Benny Feilhaber….ask yourself this? “Is it a coincidence that Alejandro Bedoya and Brad Davis shined when the USMNT went 4-3-2 in the 65th minute or so and opened up the midfield and played a more vertical, attacking game?” I’m just saying…..